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Sunday, February 19, 2012

PS vita video compatibility

Grrr..... my greatest fear has become real. Ever since the PS Vita was announced, I was worried that it wouldn't be able to play my PSP Video 9 encoded AVC files. And it turns out it can't play them. There are other AVC files it looks like it may be able to play such as CNET AVC videos. But not my particular files... that CAN be played on my HP Touchpad and of course PSPs...

I'm regretting buying the 32GB memory card. I can still load it with games and videos recorded with my Neuros Recorder, which will probably fill up the bulk of my Vita content. But I probably could have made do with a 16GB.

The PS Vita Content Manager Assistant is crap. Since hacking is Sony's major concern with the Vita, the handheld is locked down tight-- no plugging it in to a PC & just seeing it as a drive. No, we need to use the CMA to do any file transfer between PC & Vita. What's annoying about it is, the browsing & transferring is done through the Vita, it looks through the content of your PC. But it just sorts EVERYTHING of that content into one big list. So EVERY song you have on your PC shows up on the Vita CMA in alphabetical order. I don't think I have a huge music collection, I think I have about 9GB of music. I want to transfer some songs to my PS Vita, let's say 200. When I browse through the CMA list, I have to go through EVERY song & check the box if I want to transfer it to the PS Vita. I just discovered-- the hard way-- that I have over 2000 songs. The only other option is to check a box and transfer EVERYTHING. How stupid is that?? So what would have taken me about 5 minutes if I could have drag & dropped took me over 15-20 minutes of using my PS Vita to scroll through every single music file on my PC. Sheesh. And Pictures, Video is all the same process. It's great if you simply want to transfer your entire collection of whatever in 2 button presses. But do most people actually do that, transfer everything they have on their PC to their devices? Every single little picture, etc?

One strange thing I've noticed is that when I pause a video, the PS Vita doesn't seem to turn off the screen. Ever. I can use the PS or power button to turn off the screen, but as soon as I turn it back on, the video starts playing again even if it was paused.

There's no folder support, videos seem to fall into 2 categories: "Rented" or "All".

Also, the Vita froze up on me for the first time. I was trying to copy over video content & it just went blank. So I held the power button which brought up the power off screen & I tried to power off. It froze at that screen. Not good for a device with no removable battery. But I didn't panic, I just held down the power button for a while, like over 10 seconds... and then a boot page appeared which gave me a few options, rebuild database, format, restart. It's the only time that I had to use the buttons to select a menu option.

I guess I'm glad I still have my PSPs. It's sad that they are superior media players to the console that replaces them.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Got my PS Vita!

Yeah... surprisingly, Canada Post showed up yesterday morning with my PS Vita! The earliest I've ever gotten a package from Canada Post, I think...

At this point I haven't played with it much. Even though I bought the First Edition bundle which includes a 4GB (proprietary) memory card, I ran out to Future Shop & sprung for a 32GB card.... which is another $100.00 on top of the $370-some odd I paid for the bundle & Uncharted.

I also bought Lumines Electric Symphony because Touch My Katamari isn't out until next week.

Little Deviants came in a box (yay!) not a cheap sleeve or a download code like past PSP game bundles. Although I'd be ok with having Little Deviants on my memory card rather than physical cartridge.

The PS Vita game boxes are cute.

But opening up the box, I find the game cart and...... nothing else. No game manual, no paper documentation of any kind inside.

And the PS Vita carts themselves are held in the box in a strange way. I honestly am not sure how Sony wants us to remove the carts. Maybe there's some technique I'm missing?

PS Vita cartridges are small. Smaller than 3DS/DS carts. They look about the same size as an SD card.

Part of the First Edition Bundle is a PS Vita case, which is fairly nice. The case is a hard leather shell that's designed almost exactly like a 3DS case I bought recently.

It has 4 pockets for games, and a top netted pocket for accessories like cords/headphones, etc. I put my PS Vita AR cards in there.

A lot of the reviews out there go over the PS Vita menu icon interface fairly well. I don't think I can add much to what's been said. Here's some early initial impressions.

Video: media content from a PC to PS Vita needs to be done through a Content Manager Assistant program. It's not as intrusive/clunky as Media Go was, it's similar to the Blackberry Playbook program needed to transfer media to that device. I downloaded/installed the Sony CMA a few days ago, and just used it now to transfer a MP4 simple profile video I recorded with my Neuros Recorder. Starting up the PS Vita's Video section, the page is chock full of ADVERTISING.

Basically, trailers or rental/purchases of video from the PS Store. You have to carefully tap on the little icon in the center of all this junk to get at what you've got on your own system. I can't figure out how to remove this crap from my "Live Area".

Videos seemed to be just piled into a single list, there doesn't appear to be folder support on the Vita. The video list can be sorted alphabetically or by date.

Video controls are very basic and a major step back from what was on the PSP. The XMB or whatever the main PS Vita menu is called doesn't use physical buttons at all except the PS button to exit applications. Unfortunately, this extends to the video controls. You need to touch the screen to bring up the video control menu, and the only options there are a standard iDevice/smartphone slider control, 15 second skip forward/back buttons, thumbnail scene search, and a pause button. There's none of the fine tuning video playback options that later PSP firmware updates brought to that system here. I'm not positive, but there doesn't even seem to be an aspect-ratio adjust. [UPDATE:] Video aspect ratio can be adjusted from 4:3 to fill the screen by double tapping on the screen.

I guess the thinking is that the Vita doesn't have a hold switch because it doesn't use the face buttons for applications like video. I like touchscreen options, like on my phone. But not allowing buttons/d-pad controls for this app seems really dumb.

Little Deviants: So I've been playing Little Deviants a bunch since I got it. It gets mediocre reviews, but I have to admit I like it & am glad I got it in the bundle. It's a collection of minigames and like most, some work some not as much. Some people call it a glorified tech demo. Maybe.... but I'm personally having fun with it for the most part.

PSP games on Vita: So I looked through my list of downloaded PSP games. 90% of them say "Cannot download to PS Vita". I have 2 PSP games that can be played on Vita: Syphon filter Logan's Shadow & Ace Combat Joint Assault. I briefly played Logan's Shadow, and... to my disappointment there was NO 2nd analogue stick support for the game. It uses the same controls as the PSP. I thought that one of the reasons that only some PSP games are compatible with Vita was that they were optimizing some of them to use the 2nd analogue stick? otherwise, the upscaling while not awesome, is ok considering it's from an older system. [UPDATE:] There IS 2nd analogue stick controls on PSP games! Hold down the touchscreen for a few seconds while playing a PSP game, and the menu comes up to assign the 2nd analogue stick to face buttons, D-pad or even double the left analogue stick. There's also Bilinear filtering which smoothes out the PSP graphics and it does a pretty good job of it.

The PS Vita d-pad & face buttons are also different. Yes they're small, maybe even smaller than the PSPgo buttons? But the real difference is the feel. They are clicky and high raised, they don't feel as good as PSP/Playstation controller buttons. Maybe they need time/use to get worn-in. They're not terrible but they don't have that traditional PSP feel. The analogue sticks feel nice but I don't have a game that makes use of them... well Uncharted Golden Abyss does but I haven't tried it yet.

The build quality of the PS Vita is nice. It's all plastic, but it seems very stylish looking. It's larger than the PSP, but it feels *almost* lightweight because it's so "spread out". If this was the PSP Slim we all speculated about back in 2007, it would be a major success; handily checking off most fans want lists. But this isn't 2007. It's 2012. Gamers are sick of the smartphone comparisions, but that IS where the war is-- competition from smartphones has seriously hurt Sony & Nintendo handhelds. I'm playing with my PS Vita, which feels more or less like the first PSP I bought, the PSP-1001 but with smartphone additions like the touchscreen. But that's almost all the modern touch it adds. In many ways it still feels like an old device. As I'm flicking through the apps, I kept thinking, "Man what this needs is access to the Android Marketplace..." Yes there's the PS Store but it just feels so barren compared to the Android Marketplace, iTunes App Store, hell... I bet even the Windows phone marketplace is better stocked. If only the PS Vita was Android app compatible, it would really open up the possibilities. As it stands, the Vita feels like an isolated piece of nice but dated tech. And we know the PS Store won't get much better-- because they've had years to add content & improve and they mostly haven't. Sure they will add a few apps, but it will never rival the majors.

The Vita is pretty much a games machine. Some people will really like that. Personally, I don't see enough games on the horizon to make me satisfied enough just from games. Right now I'm desperately hoping for a Star Wars Battlefront game that will show off the Vita's dual analogue sticks.

I'm really surprised by how many features were STRIPPED OUT of the PS Vita from the old PSP. We have FEWER options rather than more. There's no battery power percentage (though that disappeared with the PSPgo because of hacking) Part of Sony's thinking might be to "keep it simple" but the lack of ability to "fine-tune" the PS Vita is annoying compared to the PSP. Like wi-fi is difficult to adjust, you have to go into the settings app to turn it on/off. Remember how it used to be a switch? And wi-fi sucks a lot of power, the PS Vita battery life doesn't feel any better than the PSP-- 3 hours or so without wi-fi. Bluetooth is also turned on by default & should be deactivated if you don't need it. I can't wait to pair my bluetooth headphones to the PS Vita, but I will have to, to make sure there's no dead pixels or any other reason to return the console.

I still have much to explore/discover with the PS Vita, so maybe after a few weeks I'll have a better opinion of it, once I know what it's really capable of.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vita not in the mail

Grrrrr...... sure, I've been a bit lackadaisical about the PS Vita, but that doesn't mean I don't want it. On time. I ordered the First Edition bundle from the Future Shop website because there was a $20.00 deal on any other gaming item (I used it on Uncharted Golden Abyss)... but now I have to wait for them to ship it to me rather than buying it in store.

Based on my last big handheld console purchasing experience, Future Shop is kinda... stupid... to deal with in store... but at least I had some say in when I got my 3DS, day 1. The PS Vita First Edition bundle comes out tomorrow, and as far as I can tell they haven't even shipped mine. From my past experience with Future Shop mail delivery, it takes at least a week for delivery.

By the time I get my bundle, the regular PS Vita core units will probably be available on store shelves. I suppose by some miracle mine could arrive tomorrow, if so I'll be sure to post about it. But I doubt it.....


Saturday, February 11, 2012

back from China again

So I did another trip to China... this time "only" 2 weeks. It was a really great trip (Chinese New Year is awesome) but as far as gadgets go, I kinda struck out... without even realizing it until now, actually.

The pic is from Huaqing Bei, Shenzhen's electronic district. I've mentioned it in my HA post from my first trip to China 2 years ago. It's a big area crammed with gadgets, lots of fakes & hacked systems. Last time I was there I *theoretically* could have picked up a nice R4 card for my DS Lite. So I went there this time, but I didn't have a lot of time to browse the gadgetry.... if I was alone, I probably could have spent 6 hours in there just going over stuff. But I can't fully geek out when I'm with girls, know what I'm saying?

I also visited Hong Kong for a day trip, Shenzhen is really close to HK. What's really stupid is that I FORGOT that the PS Vita launched in Japan already. So there were probably some in Hong Kong stores.... not sure I'd want a Japanese Vita, just not feeling so fanatical about the system the way I've been with the PSP. But it would have been nice to try one out & touch it in person if possible. You never know. I dunno. The Canadian launch is so close that it's a moot point at this time. But yeah, again, female company kept me from really getting to go gadget shopping the way I'd like to.

Speaking of the PS Vita, I'm just not as feverish about it as I've been with past consoles, even the 3DS. I counted the days until that launched.... I guess with the glasses-free 3D it felt really new. The Vita feels like more of the same. Sure 2 analogue sticks is a big deal... but there doesn't seem to be a great showcase for the control scheme... if only there was a new Star Wars Battlefront game with the launch. And speaking of, Sony's released a list of PSP-compatible titles and no Star Wars Battlefront game is on that list (yet). They could be compatible, but I doubt they are optimized to use the 2nd stick.

I'm sure I will be more psyched for the Vita next week....